Winterbourne microbrewery shuts in licence row with charity landlord

A MICROBREWERY and tap room in Winterbourne has closed amid a row with its charity landlord.

The Three Engineers Brewery (3EB) was given three weeks’ notice that its lease at Winterbourne Medieval Barn was not being renewed at the end of June.

The barn’s trustees say it is because the Three Engineers refused to agree to a lease agreement not to sell wine.  

But 3EB co-owner James Shorney told the Voice he was shocked at the suddenness of the decision to cancel the lease, and is now seeking legal advice. 

The 3EB was started by three aerospace engineers who lived in the village.

They rented space in the cow byres beside the barn for about five years, renewing after the barn and surrounding buildings completed a considerable renovation supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2020.

The brewery, a part-time venture run by real ale enthusiasts, brewed beer on site, which is supplied to a handful of local pubs and tap rooms, and opened two evenings a week to sell its own beers on site.

James told the Voice the venture had always been a labour of love, and he and his partner Felicity had worked countless hours without drawing any income.

But with popular evening opening, and increasing sales to other bars, there were hopes it had the potential to support an income. 

James said: “We have all worked for years for free to build the brewery up, so this has been a total blow. We are an asset to the barn, and have had tremendous feedback from our customers, who are as shocked as we are.”

He said they had paid the deposit for the new lease, and signed papers.

James said the brewery had sold some wine as an additional offering to customers. They agreed to stop earlier this year – but asked the trustees to discuss this in the future.

He said the brewing equipment remained on site, but the cost of moving it and finding another location meant the Three Engineers’ future was in doubt.

James said: “I can’t see any future if the trustees refuse to allow us to stay.”

He said he had asked for mediation but so far the trustees had declined to discuss the situation.

The local Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) branch said in a statement that it had organised a fund raising event at The Drapers Arms in Gloucester Road, Horfield, on Wednesday July 12 and a previous one at The Lamb in Iron Acton, to help cover the cost of legal advice so far.

The group said: “This is a huge blow to the local community who had taken the taproom to its heart, and also to what was a thriving small local business. It may prove terminal for the brewery if a solution cannot be found.”

Winterbourne Medieval Barn Trust issued a statement on Facebook calling the events “an unfortunate outcome”.

The trust said beer brewing and cider making was regarded as an “artisan” business, in line with its charitable aims. They brewery was allowed to open a tap room, and sell its own products, along with soft drinks and pre-packaged snacks. 

The trust said: “3EB then unilaterally added the retail sale of wine to their offer, breaching the conditions of their licence, and also without consulting WMBT as the premises alcohol licence holder.

“When this became apparent to WMBT, 3EB were asked to remove this offer, and when the breach of the licence became persistent, a meeting was arranged for November 24, 2022 that re-stated the limitation of the licence agreement.”

The trust said that on June 3, 3EB returned the agreement with a hand-written statement rejecting the wine restriction, so as no new agreement was reached, its lease had ceased on July 1.

The trust added: “WMBT has successfully operated other licence agreements and will continue to deliver the range of events that ensure the future preservation of the barn, follow the business plan agreed with South Gloucestershire Council and the National Lottery and provide a cultural asset to the local community.”

James told the Voice he had only written a note on the lease, asking for further talks about selling wine. 

He has started an online petition asking South Gloucestershire Council, which owns the Barn, to intervene.